How God challenged my apathy about politics
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
Until a couple of years ago, I found politics boring, depressing and pointless.
I’d emerged from university into a recession, found myself on the dole when I couldn’t get enough hours in my soul-destroying call centre job, and my vote for a party that I was hopeful would abolish tuition fees turned out to be utterly fruitless.
From that point, I decided politics was a waste of my time – a doomed establishment that was best left alone. As I saw it, God’s plan was solely to work through the local church and that was where I believed society would fundamentally change.
For the next few elections, I only voted because I felt I owed it to the suffragettes who fought for my right to vote. I had zero expectation or hope that my vote would make any difference.
As I speak with other Christians, it’s clear I’m not alone in this view. For many of us, particularly in the current political climate, we are simply fed up with the broken promises and a seeming lack of will to change society for the better. Many of us – particularly people in my generation – just don’t think there’s any point in engaging in politics.
When politics becomes personal
Often politics is so disappointing because the things we care about don’t seem to change. But I’ve since come to realise that my apathy was totally misguided. Actually, it was not that I cared too much, it was that I didn’t care enough.
It was when I started studying law that I realised I had been neglecting an essential duty I owed to others. Unbeknownst to me when I undertook my degree, God was going to grab my heart in a way I never expected.
Amongst a series of essay questions I had to choose from, there sat a question about abortion law in Great Britain, examining whether a foetus is a person or not under the law. I thought it sounded interesting and, although I was moderately pro-life at the time, I didn’t really feel very strongly about it.
As the months of intense research went by, and I engaged with all sorts of legal and ethical arguments about the personhood of babies in the womb, I began to realise that here was a group of people who were being denied their humanity, purely because of certain unavoidable characteristics – highly reminiscent of other people groups throughout history who have been subjugated in abusive power structures.
I began to see the devastating impact of abortion on our nation, as millions of babies have lost their lives and women have suffered hugely from the grief abortion causes.
I couldn’t let this issue go. I had to do something about it. The devastating abortion law introduced in the 60s had shifted culture dramatically, and that law was under further threat of being made much, much worse.
We often think that laws are made following changes in culture, but actually laws often influence culture more than we realise. I realised that, if laws send a fundamental message to society, then I had to engage with law at the highest level.
I had to engage with politics. If I didn’t, then who else was going to stand up for women and babies? If I ignored them, then how was I any different from the Levite or the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan, crossing on the other side of the road rather than helping the man who desperately needed it?
Loving your neighbour
I now see that God has put these institutions in place for a reason, and if Christians aren’t speaking into the public square and letting their voice be heard then what other voices are dominating? Who else is making those laws?
Yes, politics is broken. Yes, it can often feel like we are a voice crying in the wilderness and no one is listening. But we have to work with the brokenness in our world, rather than giving up altogether. We have to continue to pray that God will use our institutions for good.
The church must answer needs at a local level, and practical initiatives and relationships are part of where God is working in our culture. But His kingdom is not limited to that. Our lawmakers matter and the laws they make matter. How can we claim to love our neighbour if we don’t demonstrate with our vote that we care for them? If we don’t challenge our representatives and seek to persuade them to care for the oppressed and vulnerable? How can we limit the reach of the gospel to Sunday services, and not to public debate?
We don’t have to find politics depressing because, unlike the world, we don’t put our trust in human institutions. We know that God is in authority over them and He is in control. It doesn’t always look like good is happening, but we have to have faith that He is redeeming and building His kingdom here now.
This General Election let’s fight against apathy and hopelessness, and pray that God will use his church in every sphere of society – including politics.
CARE Communications Officer